Facebook Filters Strike Again: Social Network Blocks, Then Reinstates Anti-Racist Cartoon

Facebook Blocks Anti-Racist Cartoon, Claims It
Courtesy of Facebook

Facebook once again found itself in hot waters over overzealous filtering this past weekend. The social network briefly blocked an anti-racist cartoon from late Austrian cartoonist Manfred Deix, telling users who attempted to post it that it violated its community standards.

Facebook on Tuesday relented on the step, allowing users to once again post the cartoon in question.

“In order to deal with the many reports we are getting from our users every day, our community operations team screens hundreds of thousands of posts every week,” a European Facebook spokesperson told Variety. “Our reporting systems are designed to protect people from abuse, hate speech and mobbing. It is unfortunate that this occasionally leads to errors.  We know that it can be frustrating when such an error occurs.”

The cartoon in question depicts an Austrian aiming his gun at the three wise men, telling them that “our boat is full,” and than “foreigners are foreigners.” It also features the German equivalent of the N-word. The original source of the cartoon was a campaign poster of Austria’s Socialist Student Union.

The cartoon was first posted on Deix’s Facebook page Friday, but then taken down after the network interfered. Other users then took it upon themselves to repost the cartoon, only to find themselves temporarily blocked by Facebook.


Users who got wind of the block were not amused, with one writing: “Makes me want to do something to fight this nonsense. There is so much crap on FB, even sponsored, and THIS is what gets deleted…”

This isn’t the first time Facebook has found itself in hot waters over filtering. Last year, the network removed an iconic Vietnam War photo because its filters classified it as child pornography. The company eventually relented and reinstated the photo. Facebook had also frequently been criticized for removing photos of breastfeeding mothers in the past, and changed its policy to allow the posting of such photos in 2014.

At the same time, Facebook has been criticized for not doing enough to stem hate speech and fake news on its platform. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially dismissed the idea that propaganda articles shared on the company’s network could have influenced the election, but Facebook has since taken steps to make it easier to report fake news.

Update: 1/10: This post was updated with new information and a Facebook statement following the reinstatement of the cartoon.